Disclaimer: The information provided on this site is for informational purposes only. Individuals should not rely on information on this site for his or her individual case. Individual eligibility must be verified by consulting with an attorney. If you would like to make an appointment with an immigration attorney regarding your immigration matter, please contact us.

Family Based Petitions:

applicationFamily is important, and never more so when family members are the basis for lawful status and any waivers. Family immigration can include: spousal relationships, fiancé(e) visas, K-3 and K-4 visas for spouses and unmarried minor children of lawful permanent residents, adoption or orphans, special immigrant juvenile petitions, V visas, and other family based categories. Smith Immigration helps clients in all these areas and more.

Family-based categories generally allow a person to obtain his or her status within the US or at a consulate abroad. When the family member has entered the country legally, after being inspected by an immigration officer, he or she may be able to apply for permanent residence in the U.S. When the family member entered the country without inspection by an immigration officer, he or she may have to leave the U.S. and apply for an immigrant visa at a U.S. consulate in their home country. If the family member has been in the U.S. for more than six months without lawful status, the family member may need a waiver of the time he or she was in the U.S. without status. See more in the waiver section. Whichever process applies, adjustment in the US or consular processing, there are different forms, steps, fees and requirements that apply.

Qualifying Family Relationships: Qualifying family relationships are grouped into two main categories – immediate relatives and other close family members, who fall into preference categories.

Immediate Relatives

Immediate relatives of United States (U.S.) citizens are given special preferential treatment in that there are no limits on the amount of immediate relatives that may immigrate to the U.S. As a result, there are no backlogs in the immediate relative category.

The following are immediate relatives:

  • Spouses of U.S. Citizens;
  • Children of U.S. Citizens, if the child is unmarried and under 21; and
  • Parents of U.S. Citizens, if the U.S. citizen child has attained the age of 21.


If you are not an immediate relative, then you and your family-member who wants to petition for you must be in one of the following categories:

  • First preference (FB-1): Unmarried adult (over 21) sons and daughters of U.S. citizens;
  • Second preference (FB-2A and FB-2B): Spouses and unmarried minor (under 21) children of permanent residents;
  • Third preference (FB-3): Married adult (over 21) sons and daughters of U.S. citizens; and
  • Fourth Preference (FB-4): Brothers and Sisters of U.S. citizens.

As you can see, not all family relationships can be the basis for an immigration petition. Within these preference categories, a certain number of visas are available for each of the preference categories. Visas are also divided up based on the country of birth of the intending immigrant. Because of the limited number of visas available, there can be a very long wait for a visa to become available for a preference category. When an immigrant visa becomes available depends on priority dates.

Priority Date – What is it and where do I find it? The priority date is the date on which the immigrant visa petition (I-130) is accepted for processing by USCIS. Because this priority date is so critical, individuals with receipt notices from previously filed I-130s should make sure they always have a copy – no matter how old it is.

What about other family members? The individual obtaining the immigrant visa in the various categories is called the principal beneficiary. Those individuals immigrating with the principal beneficiary are called derivative beneficiaries. In the immediate relative categories, derivative beneficiaries may not immigrate with the principal beneficiary. However, in the other preference categories, derivatives may immigrate with the principal beneficiary. Those immediate family members of the principal beneficiary may obtain the same status as the principal beneficiary if they are accompanying or following-to-join the principal beneficiary.

For a current chart of the priority dates being processed for visas in the preference categories, see the Department of State visa bulletin at www.travel.state.gov.

Other Areas of Practice:

Deportation Defense, Removal and Bond, Voluntary Departure and Waivers

Business and Worker Cases / Employer and Worker Visas

Youth and Victims of Crime